Mack’s Mingle & Jingle

Mack is hosting a great meet and greet, a holiday Mingle & Jingle, on her site. You can find the party here:

She has some great holiday treats (complete with recipes) and music. Come on over and join the party!



Friday was a windy day. As we say in New England, it was wicked windy! All afternoon, I watched from the window of my basement office as the leaves swirled in the sky above me. Then again, being in the basement, pretty much everything was above me.

But with all the wind and the drop in temperature, things had taken an interesting turn back at home. The leaves in the area had been cleaned up just about a week ago, but they always do the “fall clean up” just a little too early. As happens every year, when the wind starts blowing, all the leaves that remain on the ground, on the trees, and pretty much in the entire neighborhood, collect right in front of my house. Every year. It has something to do with the way the townhouses are staggered and the fact that mine is set back from the ones on either side, I suppose. The alcove by my front door is the perfect repository for the residual leaves.

By the time I got home–with the recent time change–it was dark out. And seeing as I am a creative person, I have an over active imagination in the daylight. So when I arrived home (in the dark) and approached my front door, I was well aware that the leaves that were mounded in front of my steps were the perfect size and shape to be hiding a body. Or a live person who might jump out at me. Granted, said person would have to be lying flat, and would have to stay very still, but it was possible. Anything is possible.

I pushed the thought out of my mind and walked quickly to the front door, carefully stepping over the leaves rather than in them, as I do in the daylight.

The next morning, I told this story to my daughter. “I thought the same thing!” she exclaimed. We creative minds think alike. Then again, in this neighborhood (and with my neighbors), there is no telling what might be hiding under a pile of leaves in the dark.

On a positive note, because the wind brought all of the remaining leaves in the neighborhood to my front door, my back deck is now leaf-free!

Good Fence/Bad Fence

As poet Robert Frost writes, “Good fences make good neighbors.” In New England, there is much evidence of good fences in the miles of rock walls that amble over hills and through meadows in their forgotten quest to separate the farms of yesteryear. As I look at these walls, I can see the neighbors, each on his or her side of the wall, walking the line together piling stone on stone after each hard winter.

I, however, would like to argue that good neighbors exist regardless of the state of the fences that separate them.

As the resident of a townhouse, walls are generally all that separate me from my neighbors. Thankfully, my neighbors and I get along. At least I like to think we do….

Take my neighbor with whom I have an adjoining deck. For a long while, we had a lack-of-privacy fence between us. Granted, it was supposed to be a privacy fence, but it failed miserably at that job. In fact, the fence actually rotted and began to fall apart. For two-plus years, there was a large hole—at adult eye level—which allowed us to chat without looking around the fence by leaning on the railing. If I stepped out my door, I would often hear, “Howdy, Neighbor!” and a lengthy conversation would ensue through the hole in the fence.

The new privacy fence, rebuilt earlier this season, has just enough space between the slats to allow for partial view from one deck to the other. There certainly is no true “privacy.” As we often say, it’s good we like each other!

On the other side of our house, our former neighbors had two little girls. While our decks were not joined, we did have a more effective privacy fence separating us. But that didn’t stop the girls. If they heard us on our deck eating dinner, they would lean over the railing and engage us in entertaining conversation. It usually started something like this:

“Are you eating dinner?” one would ask. And when we replied with the affirmative, the conversation would continue. “What are you eating? Are you almost done? I have sand in my shoes from the sandbox. Wanna see it?” On a crazier night, one might announce from just behind the fence, “I’m naked. Is that embarrassing you?”

Perhaps it’s true that good fences make good neighbors. But bad fences make better neighbors. Honestly, who needs fences anyway? I suppose I might need a good fence if I had bad neighbors.


[Image is a photo of our privacy fence, stealthily snapped out my back door so my neighbors wouldn’t think I was creepily stalking them. Clearly, “privacy” is not the strong point of this fence.]



Today was the official last day of school, though only one of my children actually had to attend school. The high school finished up last week, with today set aside for students who needed to take make-up exams. The middle school—and lower grade students—had a half-day of school today. The last day.

When my son came home from school at 11:40 this morning, my daughter looked at him, confused. “Where did you go today?” she asked him.

He looked at her, a steady, blink-less stare, as if to say, Really? But he turned and walked away without saying a word.

Today is the first official day of summer, and my house is full of teenagers. A pile of shoes greets anyone who dares to enter the house. I think my boyfriend and I—both seasoned educators of teens—are the only ones who dare. The parents who arrived for drop-off and pick up waved tentatively from their cars.

Giggling, laughing, screaming, some piano playing, a bit of singing, chatting, and a lot of texting were the activities of the day. Swimming, pizza, and more laughing and giggling were sprinkled in for good measure.

Because I reside in a townhouse and share walls with others, I warned my neighbors of my houseful of teenagers. They didn’t seem to mind. Then again, it is only the first official day of summer….

Meanwhile, I sit at my kitchen table trying to complete the day’s work. Over the years, I have learned to navigate the noise and commotion of children in the house while I work. Because in the summer, I work from home. My crazy home.

Over the years, little has changed. Friends have come and gone. Voices have grown deeper and the shoes… they have grown bigger.

It’s officially summer. Welcome to my crazy home. Hopefully, the pile of shoes at the door won’t scare you.


Daily prompt: summer

Fearsome Felines and the Food Chain #atozchallenge


It seems the local food chain experienced a bit of a shake down this afternoon.

One of my three felines—the only one who goes outside—is a formidable force in keeping the local rodent population to a reasonable level. In fact, the chipmunk population has considerably decreased since he started going outside, and I imagine the mouse population has too, based on the body count. Nearly every day, he leaves the gift of his most recent victim on the walkway where I will be sure to see it when I arrive home.

Today, my neighbor stopped me as I drove onto the street. She informed me that a coyote was seen crossing our street midday on Tuesday. It seems my fearless feline has fallen from his position as king of the food chain. Now, if he happens to escape the safe confines of our house, he will have to navigate the neighborhood in fear.

The Dog

The expiration of the dog has come full circle.

Ever since my daughter went away to camp for the first time, and the paperwork said not to send mail that contained sad news (i.e. an announcement that the dog died), our non-existent dog has died each year while the kids are at camp. At some point during their week away, I send a letter announcing that the dog has died, and the kids are amused (although sometimes their bunk mates are horrified!). The expiration of the dog has been an ongoing joke for five years now.

This year, in a strange twist of events, I was the one who went away from home. J and I traveled out of state for an athletic competition. The boys were busy with their own activities back at home, so my boyfriend stayed with them, and kept them company.

When the kids go away, it has been my pattern to wait until a few days have gone by before I deliver any news about the dog. When I left, however, C couldn’t wait to tell me about the dog. Apparently, he felt the need to get it out of his system right away. Perhaps he thought he might forget as the week went by.

I had barely landed and settled in my hotel room halfway across the country when the message came. And it was a doozy of a message! Just in case you thought we’d be all right, Mom, here are some of the things you feared could go wrong. Oh, and the dog died.

Interestingly, when I got to the part about the dog, I knew that everything was under control, and I could relax. This trip was the first time that I had left home for more than a brief while, and I was on edge, concerned about what would go on in my absence. I had voiced my anxiety to the boys in the days leading up to my trip.

As it turned out, I had little to fear. The boys are older; my boyfriend is competent; and just maybe my neighbors were doing a little “neighborhood watch” in my absence….

But I’m glad ‘the dog died’ early in the week. That message relieved me of my worries!


“What are you doing with all of the toilet paper you are stealing from the cabinets?” I asked an unsuspecting W Sunday morning when he returned from his weekend camping trip with the Scouts.

He looked at me blankly. Then a puzzled look overtook his face. “Huh?”

“The extra rolls of toilet paper you are taking from the cabinets? What are you doing with them, and where are you putting them?” I asked again.

The conversation had begun the night before, when he wasn’t here, which is why he didn’t see it coming. I had gone into the kids’ bathroom to get some medication for a coughing, sniffling kid, and I noticed there was no toilet paper in the holder. (Now, I’d love to rant about why the paper roll can be empty and no one would address the issue, but I’ll save that for another time.) When I opened the cabinet to replace the paper, there was none.

“Where is all the toilet paper?” I asked, to no one in particular. “I think I just put several rolls in here.”

“You did,” responded C. “You gave me like four rolls about a week ago.” Yep. My recollection, exactly.

“Did you put them in the little cabinet?”

“Yeah, right here,” he said, opening the cabinet. He turned and opened the cabinet under the sink, just to check that he hadn’t put them in the wrong place.

And so the conversation turned focus to W, who was always experimenting on something… and always using household goods to do so. Then it devolved to the neighbors with keys to our house, and the fact that they might be coming in for toilet paper. After all, who would notice if a roll (or two) of toilet paper disappeared here and there?

And so today, since the other two kids had blamed W, I figured I’d pull him into the mix before I settled on the neighbors.

“Is this like the spoons?” W finally asked. Ah, the spoons! I had forgotten about the spoons. With three teens in the house, we never have enough spoons. At one point, I accused the boys of ferreting them off and melting them down to make something more interesting: swords, knives, etc.

More recently, my measuring spoons went missing. But not all of my measuring spoons, just the ¼ teaspoons. All of my ¼ teaspoons, of which I once had four and have since located one. I didn’t blame anyone in particular that time. I just mentioned that someone must be coming into our house and stealing my ¼ teaspoons.

“Yes! This is just like the spoons!” I answered, too jubilantly.

“What’s the problem in there?” J hollered in from the living room.

“Just Mom being all paranoid again. Something about the toilet paper…. She thinks the neighbors are stealing our toilet paper.” We all three dissolved into giggles.

My “paranoia” is my way of using the little issues to have some fun. What the kids don’t realize is that if I didn’t express my “paranoia,” I would be pointing the finger at them and requesting that they work to curb their excessive use of essential household staples. Or maybe I am pointing at them….